On April 28th, 2017, Jerry Wilkinson had a good day. This may sound insignificant, but to him, it was not. It was the first time he remembered having and actual good day in a least seven years.
Jerry did not think of himself as an unhappy man, but he was not a happy one. When people asked him how he was doing, he said, “Fine,” or “I’m doing well,” or “I’m getting by.” He did not say, “I’m good,” or “I’m great,” or anything like that, even though he knew that most people that said those things didn’t mean it.
Jerry did not do much, because he either didn’t feel like it or he was too tired. Sometimes both reasons happened at once, or they happened because of each other. He didn’t really read books, or even watch much TV. He didn’t go out to eat. He only went to the grocery store once a month to buy a stockpile of canned, boxed, and microwaveable foods. He used to have people that he called his friends, but he wasn’t good at keeping in touch with them, so the slowly faded out of his life.
On April 28th, which was a Friday, Jerry woke up not to his alarm, but to the sound of rain pattering gently against his window. He checked his phone to find that he had forgotten to set his alarm at all, but that he had, nevertheless, awoken at the exact minute for which he would have set it.
Despite the rain, there was sunlight coming in through his window. Jerry stretched. His eyes fluttered as his muscles awoke, sending a pleasant shudder through his body. He turned in his bed and, rather than checking his phone for a quarter of an hour as he often did, he sat up to look out of the window.
The sun had risen high enough that its light cascaded across his lawn, illuminating the wet grass and transforming it into a glistening, crystalline field. The golden light refracted through the falling water and there, looking like it ended in Jerry’s own yard, was a rainbow.
Jerry smiled, which was not something he generally did in the morning. Normally Jerry scowled and stumbled about until about an hour after he’d had his coffee. He never slept well. Yet this morning, he felt awake and alert and, though he’d never realized how unprepared he normally felt, he felt ready for the day.
Out of habit, the first thing Jerry did was to start his coffee brewing, even though he didn’t feel a desperate craving for its artificial energy. Then, rather than sitting slumped in his chair while he waited for it to finish, Jerry took a shower.
Jerry showered every morning, but doing it while he waited for his coffee felt like a revelation. The air in his house was cool, bordering on cold, because Jerry didn’t like to spend a lot of money on utilities. He stepped in the shower without testing the water first, trusting, for some reason, that it would be a the right temperature.
It was, and Jerry smiled as the heat prickled across his skin. He smiled! Jerry, who hated mornings, smiled, having woken up only minutes before. He was so caught up in the pleasantness of the shower that he didn’t even notice how remarkable this was, especially when considering his overall demeanor during the last seven years.
He stayed in the shower a bit longer than normal, because the warmth felt good and comforting, and the steam cleared out a blockage in his nose he hadn’t even realized was there. Suddenly, he could smell the full aroma of his body soap, which he had picked up at random because the packaging drew his eye. He hadn’t realized how good it actually smelled. It was as though he had never smelled it before.
When he stepped out of the shower, dried himself, and stepped into the hallway, he was still warm enough that the cooler air felt good against his skin. He picked his favorite shirt out from his closet, one he rarely wore because he treasured it and didn’t want to wear it out.
He felt an odd crinkling in his pants pocket as he put them on. When he reached in to explore, his fingers came out holding a $10 bill, undamaged by the wash, which he thought he’d misplaced two weeks ago.
Most days, Jerry drank his coffee black. He hated the bitter taste of it, but he didn’t like to take the time to add creamer, because he normally felt like he was running late for work. Today, he had time. He found a packet of hot cocoa in the back of his cupboard when he was pulling out his box of cereal. He mixed in the cocoa, added a splash of creamer, and, for once, his coffee actually tasted good.
He sat at his table for breakfast today, rather than standing in the kitchen. He didn’t get his phone out, either. He just watched the rain fall, still glowing in the morning sun.
On the drive to work, Jerry turned on the radio, and he actually liked the song that was playing. It was upbeat and generic, and even though the tune would be stuck in his head for hours, he didn’t mind, because it sounded fun and happy. Jerry shifted his shoulders and hips a bit as he drove, which was as close as he would ever come to dancing.
Jerry did not sit in his car outside of the building, dreading the moment when he would have to walk inside. He parked, shut his car off, and went in without hesitation.
Carol was already there. She had unlocked the doors and was at her desk, preparing for the day. For some reason, she looked surprised to see him.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Good morning!” Jerry said.
Carol looked even more surprised. “What are you doing here today?”
“What?” Jerry asked, tilting his head.
“You’re not in today,” she said. “Did you forget to check the schedule?”
Jerry laughed. Carol flinched, but then relaxed, smiling. “I can’t believe I did that,” he said.
“I think we’ve all done it at least once,” Carol said “I put some donuts in the conference room, if you want one on your way out.”
“I would. Thank you.”
Jerry didn’t bother removing his coat. The donuts were from a local bakery, Russo’s, which had been voted the best in the county. Carol had even gotten his favorite, a twisted glazed donut with raspberry filling.
“Have a good day, Jerry,” Carol said as he pushed out of the door.
“I will,” Jerry said with confidence. “You too, Carol.”
The rain had stopped, leaving only sunlight. Jerry sat in his car for a few minutes, treasuring his donut, while he thought about what to do with the rest of his day. Mentally, he had already given it over to the bank. Now there was an hours-long gap in the day full of nothing but potential.
Jerry went to the park. There was a nice walking circuit around it and, though he was dressed for a day at the bank, he had a pair of more comfortable shoes in his back seat from the brief period of a few weeks last year when he’d tried to make it a habit to exercise after work.
The rain did not return while Jerry walked. He spent over an hour walking around the path, taking a leisurely pace. The walk make him feel good, as did the breeze, which was somewhere in the perfect place between cold and hot. The best part, however, was the crane that stood at the edge of the path as he approached, which watched him calmly as he walked by, never even flaring its wings even though he drew within a scant few feet of it.
With the ten dollars he’d found in his pocket and the five dollars already in his wallet, Jerry took himself out to lunch. He didn’t even know where to go around town, even though he’d lived there his entire life, because he hadn’t been out to eat anything except for fast food in so long. He searched for nearby restaurants on his phone and selected a Chinese place with good reviews.
He bought orange chicken and an egg roll. It tasted delicious, far better than anything he microwaved at home. The bill was a pleasant surprise as well. With a reasonable tip, the total was exactly $15.
After lunch, Jerry returned home. He shrugged off his jacket and put it into the closet. Next to the closet was a small table, which had become home to a variety of things Jerry had set down over the months and never picked back up again. On the edge of the table was a book Jerry had begun to read.
He’d only gotten a few chapters in. The cover was coated in dust. Jerry wiped it off with a paper towel, the carried it to the most comfortable chair in his living room. He sat down and began to read. He didn’t stop until hours later, with his stomach grumbling at him its desire to be fed.
Jerry, enamored with the novel but also craving something as fulfilling as his lunch, decided to splurge and order a pizza for delivery. He didn’t even put the book down when he answered the door, which made grabbing the pizza slightly awkward. He smiled at the girl delivering it, and she smiled back. They both laughed.
The pizza was good, but it paled in comparison to the novel, which drew Jerry in and wrapped around him, making him feel as though he was part of its world. He finished the final page lying in bed by the light of his bedside lamp, and though the ending was not happy, it left him with a sort of peaceful, wistful sadness, something he would come to call “happy-sad:” a sadness that brought him pleasure rather than pain, like thinking about his grandmother or the dog he’d had in childhood.
Jerry fell asleep that night hopeful for his next day, but with no expectation for it. He would not be disappointed if it was worse than this one, because, after all, no day in the last seven years had compared. He would only be grateful if it could call it, too, a good day.